WASHINGTON – As the country prepares to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Acting Director Michael T. Reynolds Thursday applauded President Barack Obama’s designation of three new national monuments to recognize the nation’s journey from the Civil War to the modern Civil Rights Movement, according to an Interior Department news release.
President Obama also expanded the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southwestern Oregon and the California Coastal National Monument to protect natural and cultural resources and areas of critical biodiversity, including highly important wildlife habitat.
Thursday's 48,000-acre expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument builds upon the original monument’s goal to protect the area’s extraordinary biodiversity. Located in southwestern Oregon and established in 2000, Cascade-Siskiyou was the first monument designated solely for the preservation of its biodiversity. The monument is an ecological wonder, home to an incredible variety of rare and endemic plant and animal species, and representing a rich mosaic of forests, grasslands, shrub lands, and wet meadows at the convergence of three mountain ranges.
Several years ago, local scientists sounded the alarm that in the face of mounting external pressures including encroaching development and climate change, the original monument boundary was too small to sustain the diverse array of species that it was established to protect. The expansion, which includes a 5,000-acre extension into California, will provide vital habitat connectivity, watershed protection, and landscape-scale resilience to fire, insects and disease, invasive species, drought, or floods – events likely to be exacerbated by climate change.
“The BLM manages some of the nation's wildest and most sacred landscapes, including more than 800 areas that have been protected through congressional and presidential action. We're proud to be charged with stewarding these incredible lands for future generations, including today’s additions to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the California Coastal National Monument,” said Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze. “The BLM looks forward to continuing and expanding our work with local communities to ensure successful management of these special places.”
In October, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor attended a public meeting on the proposed expansion hosted by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in Ashland, Ore. In addition to Senator Merkley’s leadership, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and then-Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have written in support of the expansion along with a wide array of state and local elected officials, local scientists, area businesses, and numerous conservation groups. Senators Wyden and Merkley also introduced legislation in 2015 that would have protected most of the areas in the expansion.